Love of the World: Essays

It would be hard to find a more apt name for a book than John McGahern's Love of the World. Published posthumously, the anthology is a tribute to a singular life and genius.

The collection is divided into halves, the first of which gathers McGahern's comments on society and politics, the second his reflections on literature. But the two are very rarely separated in the author's mind and the same themes resonate throughout: the transformation of modern Irish society, the influence of the Catholic Church and the symbiosis of life and art.

The pieces don't quite have the lyricism of McGahern's fiction. His descriptions of places - Morocco or Paris, say - are vivid enough, but there is a lingering sense that he is uncomfortable with the essay form. Nevertheless, this collection provides an insight into the mind of a gifted and generous critic.

Love of the World: Essays
John McGahern
Faber & Faber, 650pp, £20

This article first appeared in the 09 November 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Castro